Tim Booth, for the uninitiated, was the driving force, and one of the very few 'ever presents' behind James. "James who?" as my parents once asked when, as a teenager I declared that I was "off to see James". Life was never simple. And as part of James his career ploughed a wildly varying furrow, from timid indie folksters, to the epitome of Madchester cool, and the assured stadium rockers of their latter day incarnation, Tim Booth has pretty much been there, done the gig and got the T-shirt.
After a short sabbatical, that has seen him oversee dance workshops, go to acting school and secure a role in the new Batman movie, Tim returns with 'Bone' - a long player that seems to have taken him almost full circle. The soundtrack gently ebbs and flows with a simple, yet effective brand of melodic pop - more in tune with his early works 'Stutter' and 'Strip Mine' than the latter pomp of 'Seven' and 'Millionaires'. It is a much more stripped back, almost cleansed, intimate sound than the luxuriant, textured layers of his recent canon.
Influences are not immediately obvious, there has always been a certain uniqueness in his sound, and that continues here. Although occasional leanings towards George Harrison, Neil Young, and a complete re-take of Radiohead's 'Karma Police' at the start of 'Discover' are apparent, and indeed, when Tim aches "Wrap your lips around this velvet kiss" at the opening of 'Fall In Love' I could almost hear Bruce Springsteen roaring "Wrap your hips round these velvet rims" on his anthemic 'Born to Run'. It's that eclectic.
Opening with 'Wave Hello' we are in familiar territory, a standard guitar driven pop rock track wherein the singer declares "We've been here before, and we'll meet here again" almost in an acknowledgement to the die-hards who have been there throughout his career. Anyone hoping far a dramatic departure from the norm is going to be let down here. Following smartly on the title track throbs with a gently hypnotic pulse, flowing with an almost African rhythm, the first of a variety of ethnic slants to appear throughout the record.
The simple, quasi-ballad 'Discover' is a high point, building to a crescendo with a stylishly erotic and melancholic, yet erudite vocabulary. Sliding in immediately after is the beautifully fragile 'Fall in Love'. Almost a lullaby, almost a plea to a lost love, and an admission that love is often unrequited. The tale never reaches its conclusion, but I cannot help feeling that there is no happy ending. The lachrymose sentiments could quite easily taint the rest of the album, however, by the time we get to 'Down to the Sea', it's hard not to resist the optimistic rhythms, despite the underlying message of the lyrics being one of impending doom. It becomes apparent that a balance is being struck here, where Tim Booths hopeless and helpless lyrics are countered by sweet, melodious harmonies and rhythms. In all it lends itself to an easy listening experience. If you indulged too much time into the lyrics alone you'd surely end up a slave to Seroxat, while the music alone may seem almost fey, unintrusive. But put the both together and you end up with a fresh, vital and exciting collection of songs. The conflicting sentiments compliment each other perfectly, it's that simple.
Towards the end of the piece, the band throw in a rockier 'Eh Mamma' before slipping back into the simpler form of the rest of the album with the closing 'Be Careful What You Do' where we are told that "Empathy is just a common feeling" – are we really unique in thinking we can relate to these songs? Well, I don't know if I'm unique or not, but I can see a lot of me in here, and a lot of everyone else as well.
In all, an accomplished solo album, obviously scarred by Tim Booths experiences and observations. In the same way that Elvis and The Cheeky Girls are instantly recognisable, people will listen to this and draw the easy comparisons to James. But give a little more thought and you'll hear the sound of a man who despite being one of the busiest men in pop has an air of calmness in everything he says and does. A halcyon moment on digital disc.
Prophetically the singer reports "I think that death will be the end, but then I feel I will come back again", and if he comes back again with an album as good as this, he'll certainly be welcome in my house.